Friday, June 16, 2017

Fairview Mountain explorations

In the waterfall canyon I saw this large spring gushing from the canyon wall into Willow Creek 
The impressive first Willow Creek waterfall

Looking up toward the first saddle

A "selfie" on top with Scapegoat Wilderness behind me

Plenty of snow on east facing slope of Fairview

I negotiated this snowfield in the talus to the right

Like a Garden of Eden, these waterfalls cascade over several cliff bands in the narrow gulch

A band of sandstone at the end of the narrow gulch
Mountains can be climbed by varieties of routes.
Over the years I've settled on an easy route up Fairview Mountain (elevation: 8,215 feet) after approaching it from several different aspects that made the ascent more difficult.
On Thursday I had plenty of time and did some exploring that confirmed that my easy route is still the easiest route.
Yet, by exploring I found some very interesting scenery and a gorgeous waterfall.
Fairview Mountain in the Rocky Mountain Front west of Augusta is reached at the old Camp Scoutana junction and a ranch trailhead some two miles up a rough gravel road.
The trail immediately crosses Willow Creek, which is bank full with spring runoff.  I couldn't cross at the trail and it looked like I was going to be skunked right out of the chute.
The usual rocks and tree limbs were deep under rushing water.
To the right it was blocked by barbed wire fence across the creek.
So, I bushwhacked to the right, following what appeared to be a game or angler's trail.
About 200 feet the rough track went to the creek and there were two boards across it.
Problem solved!
The trail then climbs through grass and numerous wildflowers to a high trail into a deep limestone canyon high above the creek.
What follows is a series of three waterfalls and the canyon ends with yet another waterfall in sight.
At the end of the canyon is a narrow gulch immediately to the right at the foot of the mountain.
The favored route is to skip this gulch, round the bend on the trail to the next gulch on the other side of the ridge and proceed up, climbing progressively through two large saddles that can be reached on any of the abundant game trails.
What I did Monday was to get to the first saddle, and head to the right where there is a long limestone ridge. Above it are open, grassy areas in the trees that lead to the summit ridge.  I did this instead of going to the second saddle and then angling over.
This turned out to be a great, but little steeper route than the easy route.
On the way down I repeated my route to the limestone ridge, but instead of heading back down through the first saddle, I decided to explore the narrow gulch to the left, just below the mountain's extensive scree and talus west slope.
By moving back and forth across a small stream and climbing above into the talus I worked my way progressively down this gulch to the trail, just above the deep canyon with the falls.
Along the way my biggest hazard was a large snowfield that I avoided by climbing above it and side-hilling.
I also found an dazzling new waterfall that cascades down through a series of cliffs into the stream.
Unfortunately the day was a dreary gray, windy and cold and the light was flat.
Although Fairview Mountain isn't particularly challenging, the climb, with its waterfalls canyon and the views into the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wilderness areas, Rocky Mountain Front, and even Great Plains with its Island Ranges, is quite rewarding.
By taking these new, direct routes, I figured I saved about a mile of hiking, 7.3 miles rather than 8.6 miles, gaining and losing some 3,000 feet.  I also saw several pretty good routes up to the ridge through the limestone scree and talus
The blue line is the traditional, or easy, route.  The red line is where I left the first saddle and went to a limestone ridge and then to the summit ridge.  The fuschia colored line is where I descended into the tight gulch.

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